This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005
Eliza Forlong (1784-1859), pastoralist, was baptized as Betty on 21 October 1784 at Glasgow, Scotland, daughter of Alexander Jack, teacher, and his wife Jean, née Mackinnon. On 26 November 1804 Eliza married John Forlonge (Forlong or Furlong), a Glasgow merchant. Although she bore at least six children, by the mid-1820s consumption had reduced the family to two sons William and Andrew. Farming in a warmer climate appeared desirable.
Aware that fine wool from merino sheep in the German kingdom of Saxony was bringing the highest prices, the Forlongs went to Leipzig to study methods of sheep rearing and wool preparation. Their expertise was enhanced by the use of an instrument to measure wool. In 1828-30 Eliza walked through Saxony buying sheep. She identified each animal for later collection and drove them to Hamburg for shipping to Britain. She selected the sheep that came to Australia with William in the Clansman in 1829 as well as those accompanying the Templeton and Forlonge families in the Czar in 1831. Eliza also visited Rambouillet in France.
In January 1831 Eliza, John and Andrew joined William in Van Diemen's Land at Kenilworth, near Campbell Town. They built sheep houses in the Saxon style, wells, a farmhouse and outbuildings. Never content with the size and situation of their land grants, the family conducted an 'epistolary war' with colonial officials, and in April 1834, in an attempt to influence English authorities, Eliza, her husband and younger son went back in the Norval to Britain. John died there in November 1834.
Mrs Forlonge soon returned to Van Diemen's Land where she found that William planned a move to the Port Phillip District. They sold Kenilworth and part of their flock in 1838 to the Taylor family. Eliza made further voyages to Scotland (in 1840 and 1844) and assisted bounty emigrants. After some years squatting, Andrew moved to the United States of America. Eliza lived with William and his family at Woodstock, Merri Creek, near Whittlesea. They moved to Euroa in 1853 and eventually settled at Seven Creeks station. Eliza ran the house and managed station affairs in the frequent absences of William and his wife.
William Howitt described her as 'one of the pleasantest and most energetic ladies I have ever met with', but Nancy Adams portrayed her unfavourably in the novel Saxon Sheep (Melbourne, 1961). Sally Wilde claimed that her actions suggested 'a strong willed, not to say positively eccentric, woman'. Although Eliza's pioneering and managerial skills were outstanding, it was her ability to select sheep that was special. David Taylor of Winton and T. and S. Learmonth of Ercildoun(e), Victoria, founded their studs on the Forlonges' Saxon merinos, which were greatly sought after by breeders of fine-woolled sheep.
Eliza died on 5 August 1859. A memorial, in the shape of a wool bale, stands near her grave at Euroa. Other memorials include a sundial at the new Kenilworth house and a mural by Tom Thompson at TAFE Sydney Institute, Ultimo.
Mary S. Ramsay, 'Forlong, Eliza (1784–1859)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/forlong-eliza-12921/text23345, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 27 August 2014.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005